From the collections at the Leavenworth County Historical Society and Museum. Reprinted with permission from The Leavenworth County Historical Society and Museum and the Leavenworth Times. Donated by Debra Graden.
The town of Farley in Platte County recently became a full-fledged centenarian, having been platted 100 years ago last fall, or, to be more explicit, on October 14, 1850, by Josiah Farley, for whom it was named. The writer lived for 46 years just across the river from Farley, and almost within sight of the old town. He kept in close touch with it, and became quite conversant with its past history. Like most of the town of the Platte Purchase, it passed through all of the exigencies of pioneer and frontier life and grew old gracefully.
Josiah Farley, the "Father of Farley," was a Kentuckian who settled in Platte County soon after the opening of the Platte Purchase territory. He had a large family consisting of Thadeus, robert, Sarah, James, Josiah Jr., and others. His wife was Nancy. He had a brother, Nimrod Farley, who died in 1858. He operated a ferry across the Missouri River, between Iatan and Oak Mills, a small tract of land which he owned in the bottom, at the latter place, affording him a landing in Kansas. When Kansas Territory was opened for settlement in 1854 and for several years afterward, this ferry derived a big business from emigration. It was destroyed by political enemies later. Josiah Farley died in 1857.
Rapp's Addition to Farley was platted Feb. 20, 1852, by John G. Rapp. Rapp was hanged by a company of so-called "Red Legs" precipitated a reign of terror and committed many atrocities in Platte County during Civil War days. Their excuse for hanging Rapp was said to have been the finding of a twenty-dollar bill of Confederate money in his possession.
That the vicinity of Farley was occupied by prehistoric Indians of the Hepewellian stock, some 400 years ago, was demonstrated by authorities of the Smithsonian Institute, of Washington, D. C., in an expedition headed by Dr. Waldo R. Wedel, in 1937, when important archaeological discoveries were made on the Steed-Kisker farms near Farley.
The writer now keeps in touch with Farley and its inhabitants through the correspondence of The Leavenworth Times' wide awake Farley scribe, Mrs. Glen Bruner. Mrs. Bruner comes from a prominent pioneer family of that section of Missouri, and her husband was reared on farms in Leavenworth and Atchison Counties, in Kansas. His father, the late Crawford A. Bruner, was an early justice of the peace in that area and was well known as an old-time fiddler.
As the renowned Co. William F. Cody (Buffalo Bill) is Leavenworth's "pet and pride," a couple of items pertaining to him might not be amiss in this symposium: Col. Charles Burton Saunders has bequeathed to his home town, Berryville, Ark., a county seat in the Ozarks, his extensive collection of historic firearms and other weapons d relics of the Old West. Included in the collection is what purports to be the knife with which Buffalo Bill killed the Indian Chief, Yellow Hand, in a hand-to-hand fight, and other relics of the famous scout and showman. Col. Saunders has spent a fortune in amassing this remarkable collection, and says he has prided himself in being careful that the various times are well authenticated. He has made provision for a plot of ground and a museum building to house the collection in his home city.
John Benjamin Franklin Lawson, who died a while back in the Veterans Hospital at Sawtelle, Calif., was a well known impersonator of Buffalo Bill Cody in early Western movie show, rodeos and parades. With his snow-white locks 24 inches long, and equally argent mustache and goatee, he was a picturesque character, typical of Col. Cody in his last days. He came to California as a youth from Trinidad, Colo., and settled in the great San Joaquin Valley, which is the home of the writer, who met him on several occasions.
Three natives of the Potter community, northwest of Leavenworth, have proven their loyalty to the "old sod," by having been born there on Kansas Day, January 29th, and spending the most of their lives there. The late Thomas J. Potter was born in the claim cabin of his father, Joseph Potter, the original settler of the community, on Kansas Day in 1856, and lived his entire lifetime of 85 years in that locality. He passed away in 1941. He served as postmaster of Potter for 45 years and at the time of his death was reputed to be the oldest postmaster in Kansas.
Clarence e. Bedwell, a son of Mr. and Mrs. Melvin Bedwell, pioneers, first saw the light of day in the Potter area, on Kansas Cay in 1888, and lived there most of his life. He now lives in Denver where he has been a member of the fire department for several years. He still calls Potter his home, however. Leo Begley was ushered in by the stork near Potter on Kansas Day in 1890, and still lives there. The above have constituted a trio of mighty fine citizens.
I am always pleased when I see a communication from Harry Seckler in The Times, because it is a reminder that the "old boy" is still in the harness and able to "dish up" something that is always of real interest to Times readers, particularly those who are interested in local history. I was especially pleased with his article entitled, "Leavenworth Has Changed," which the editor saw fit to make the leading editorial in the issue of December 31st. After an absence of 33 years, I don't imagine there is much in the way of landmarks that would look familiar to me anymore. "Seck," as he is familiarly known to his many friends, is a "good scout" and I sincerely hope he may be able to scout around and dig up a lot more of his good local history stories in the years to come. I shall always remember him and his father, John Seckler, pioneer Leavenworth clothier, with pleasure.
Stranger Creek is he "Old Mill Stream" of Leavenworth County. A number of mills sprang up along that historic waterway to meet the demand of early settlers for bread-stuff and building. John Wright operated a grist and saw mill a short distance north of the old covered bridge, east of Jarbalo, between the years of 1856 and 1861. It was on the farm of Solomon Buston. It was a busy place with farmers, for miles around, hauling grain and logs there. The boiler burst in the latter year and eight persons lost their lives and others were wounded.
John Wright, the proprietor, had just repaired a belt and was placing it in position when the explosion occurred. He was hurled 10 feet and landed among some logs, but was now seriously injured. Harrison Waymire and R. B. Richards were caught in the main belt and thrown quite a distance against a tree and badly hurt. One lifeless body was almost stripped of clothing. Others were torn to fragments and portions of flesh scattered over the country. It was believed that water was allowed to freeze in the boiler and loosen some of the flues and when the steam raised the explosion occurred.
Those killed were A. W. Mason, Andred Calhoun, Henry Broderick, William Trackwell, James K. Block, Peter McKinney, Jesse Richards and George Eaton. The above is on authority of an old "History of Leavenworth County," but the title page is missing and I don't know who to give credit to.
In 1869 J. J. Rapp established a milling project at Millwood called the Stranger Valley Mills, from which the town of Millwood derived its name. It was more commonly known as "Rapp's Mill." The structural work on this mill was done by Michael Lakner, a millwright, who then lived in Leavenworth but who afterward became a resident of Millwood and for years operated a tavern and store there. He erected some of the best mills in that time in Kansas. The Millwood mill was a large structure of native stone, which was later used in the building of the hospital at Easton.
The mill was operated by both steam and water power. When the writer left Kansas in 1917, remains of the millrace and dam could still be seen. The mill passed into the hands of William Griswold, of DeKalb County, Mo., after Rapp's death, and from him to the late John Davitz, of Oak Mills, who operated it for about eight years, and then engaged in the milling business at Oak Mills. Davitz finally sold the machinery of the old Millwood mil to Ashby and Son, of Leavenworth, and the mill itself, to Elijah Downing, also of Leavenworth, after which it was torn down. The writer has preserved in his Millwood scrap-book a drawing of the ruins of the old mill, made by Judge Leroy Hand, of Leavenworth, in 1909.
Thomas Ashby erected a saw and grist mill on Stranger Creek, two miles east of Springdale, in the winter of 1879-80. It was operated by steam power and was built in the midst of what was said to be the finest forest of white oaks in Kansas. The trees stood so thick on the ground that it was necessary to clear out some 15,000 of timber to make room for the mill. Ashby and his sons continued this enterprise for a number of years, moving to Leavenworth in 1893. The Stranger Creek mill became the property of E. J. Evans, who continued to operate it for a few years after which it was abandoned. It was destroyed by fire in 1920. Henry Ready had a saw and grist mill on Big Stranger in Alexandria Township, at one time, and Mrs. E. Davis and son operated a water-power flouring mill on the same stream, four miles southeast of Tonganoxie.